The recommended serving sizes of fish oil products often do not contain an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids to provide cholesterol-lowering benefits, according to the findings of an analysis recently published in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice.

Omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosehexaenoic acid (DHA), have been found to be associated with cardiovascular health benefits. The American Heart Association recommends a total of 2 to 4 grams of EPA and DHA daily, which can be obtained through a healthy diet as well as consumption of fish oil products.

“The purpose of this study is to describe the EPA and DHA content in a suggested serving size of fish oil products to ultimately determine how many fish oil products contain the appropriate amount of at least 2000mg of EPA + DHA per serving necessary to lower cholesterol,” the authors explained.


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The National Institutes of Health’s Dietary Supplement Label Database was used to identify the fish oil products. Labels were then analyzed to determine EPA and DHA content as well as the quantity of units required to obtain at least 2000mg of EPA and DHA. Findings were reported using descriptive statistics.

A total of 231 products of varying formulations were analyzed. “Two (0.9%) products, both of which were liquid formulations, contained at least 2000mg of EPA and DHA in the standard serving size listed on the labeling,” the authors reported. Data analysis showed that the serving size of total EPA and DHA was found to range from 60.2mg to 2684mg (average, 697mg). Findings also revealed that the number of servings required to attain 2000mg of EPA and DHA ranged from 1 to 34 (average, 5). Liquid formulations had the highest EPA and DHA content per serving, while gummy products had the lowest (with some requiring up to 34 servings to achieve 2000mg).

“Patients cannot rely on recommended serving sizes provided on natural product labeling to guide them to proper dosing of daily intake of fish oil to achieve health benefits,” the study authors concluded. To ensure that an appropriate amount of EPA and DHA is being consumed, the authors recommend that healthcare providers educate patients on proper administration of these products, as well as communicate “realistic expectations of the benefits of fish oil.”

Reference

Ward ED, Thomasson K, Fischer KR. Analysis of Omega-3 fatty acid content in fish oil products. Journal of Pharmacy Practice. Published online May 6, 2021. doi: 10.1177/08830738211015051

This article originally appeared on MPR